In the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare one of the main theme is Time versus Love. Time is such a strong presence in the play it is an almost unnamed character; the whole play is conducted in less than a week creating urgency and a rush of time. Fate is also their enemy and is expressed by a series of impossible coincidences that end up Romeo and Juliet both dead. Shakespeare also portrays many different types of love expressed by multiple characters but none survives the destructive forces of time.
The play begins on a Sunday morning where Sampson is introduced. Sampson; a strong man who loves fighting and is good with woman – that is Sampson’s self image. Sampson thinks of love as a kind of war or battle using words such as; “weapon,” “cut,” “push,” “thrust.” Also he says “’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh” suggesting that he only cares about the physical sensation not love itself. It is a selfish kind of love as he brutalizes woman out of existence; “I will cut off their heads… the head of the maids – or their maidenheads.” Mercutio carries a similar idea of love. “If love be rough with you, be rough with love: prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.” He only thinks of the literal physical love. He is only able to think that Romeo is feeling lust and portrays this in often humorous sexual innuendoes. However Mercutio dies from Tybalt’s sword through his best friend’s arms; “That gallant spirit hath aspired the clouds, Which too untimely here did scorn the earth.” Tybalt the “King of cats” is, against all odds, killed by Romeo who isn’t even involved in his family brawls.
While Sampson and Mercutio’s idea of love involves the physical side of love Romeo’s is the exact opposite. His love is in his mind as he hopelessly dreams of Rosaline. Romeo loves but his love is never returned but Romeo just enjoys dramatising himself in his own mind. He explains that his love hurts; “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boist’rous, and it pricks like thorn.” Romeo actually enjoys the pain he receives from being in love. “But all so soon as the all-cheering sun should in the farthest east begin to draw – shuts up his windows, lock fair daylight out, and makes himself and artificial night.” Romeo fearing the sun will cheer him up locks it out
. But since Romeo is only attracted to Rosaline because she is pure, virginal and chased it put him in a paradoxical situation; if Rosaline does what he wants her to he would no longer love her. But with Juliet there is passion; “passion lends them power, time means, to meet.” But it was “too rash… too like lightning” and ill-timed to get married the next day. Mercutio accuses Romeo’s love for Rosaline to be only a dream; “through lover’s brains, and then they dream of love.” Romeo admits “this love feel I, that feel no love in this.” And just as in a dream he forgets Rosaline when he meets Juliet; “I have forgotten that name, and that name’s woe.”
Juliet’s true mother is the Nurse; her mother Lady Capulet did not nurse her because she had been trying to escape from the ravages of time; her figure was more important to her than her daughter. Also Juliet’s father does not see Juliet as a daughter but a sort of property that he can use to expand his business; Juliet and County Paris marrying would give him more wealth and power. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris Capulet commands her “to go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, or [he’ll] drag [her] on a hurdle thither.” He also changes his opinion of her. From “bless’d that God had lent us but this only child” he says “This one is one too much.” When Juliet, afraid of her father leans on her mother she coldly replies; “talk not to me, for I will not speak a word. Do as they wilt, for I have done with thee.” It is similar with Romeo’s parents; there is not a scene in the play where Romeo talks to his parents and instead they send Benvolio to do the talking. The friar is Romeo’s real father but he betrays Romeo by offering nothing but the nunnery to Juliet and running away without Juliet, leaving her alone and ready to suicide. “Come, go, good Juliet, I dare no longer stay…” Also the nurse betrays Juliet by not supporting her when Capulet is angered; “Romeo is a dishclout to him[Paris],” but actually agrees with her parents even though she knew that they are married and have consummated their love.
Other than physical, mental and parental love there is true love. Love both of the body and mind. After their death Montague raises Juliet’s and Capulet, Romeo’s, statue in pure gold; the symbol of their love will last forever because gold can resist the force of time. Their love is everlasting and endless; “boundless as the sea, my love as deep.” Romeo also says that nothing can hold their love out; “For stony limits cannot love out” and not even the threat of death will stop it: “There lies more peril in thine eye than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet and I am proof against their enmity.” In Act 3 Scene 1 Romeo even tries to love Tybalt since now he is a relative by marriage; “I have to love thee…” for Juliet but this leads to Mercutio’s death. Juliet confesses that she would do anything to be with Romeo “all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay and follow thee my lord throughout the world.”
Throughout these events Time and fortune has always been their enemy and is expressed a series of impossible coincidences. The first coincidence is when the Capulet servant comes to Romeo to ask him to read the guest list leading to the fatal meeting of Romeo and Juliet. Ironically when the servant asks “I pray, good sir, can you read” Romeo replies “Ay, my own fortune in my misery” perhaps implying that his death will be caused by his misery. After this day Romeo and Juliet get married and next day Romeo kills Tybalt leading to his banishment. When Romeo leaves for Mantua Juliet says; “O fortune, fortune! … I hope, thou won’t keep him long, but send him back.” Time was the only separating the two lover; “I must hear from thee every day in the hour, for in a minute there are many days.”
However when Romeo comes back, he dies. Juliet is forced to take the potion because of the lack of time; “Time is very short” and most unfortunately her faked death reaches Romeo’s ear before the true story. Romeo travels to her deathbed in moments to see her for the last time and hastily takes the poison and Juliet wakes up and stabs herself to be with Romeo forever. At his banishment Romeo says “O, I am Fortune’s fool” fool meaning plaything. Also when Juliet has a row with Capulet desperate not to marry Paris Capulet calls her an “A whining mammet, in her fortunes tender.” He complains that she is crying when good luck has been offered to her but of course this is the opposite. This is all orchestrated by fortune and there was nothing to do to stop it. “This day’s black fate on mo days doth depend; This but begins the woe others must end.”
In conclusion the theme is love versus time. The two lovers timing was never right which led to ultimately their death. But the question remains; Can love really withstand time? Although Romeo and Juliet dies, Tybalt and Mercutio is slain, Rosaline is forgotten entirely, the Capulets betray their daughter for wealth and power the meaning of love that feared not even death still goes on. Their sacrifice causes peace among the two families when they see the true meaning of love.